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Pole Loading: What Is It?

What is pole loading?

Photo deliverable, showing the measurements of a pole located on a map displayed in KatapultPro.

Stripped down to the basics, pole loading analysis identifies the forces acting on a pole (from the cables, hardware, and more) and analyzes its structural integrity.

Pole loading analysis starts with surveying an existing pole (or using build specifications for new lines).  If there is a new build being attached to the pole, this is also noted.  Often, these measurements are recorded on a pole head sheet, or pole profile sheet.  Heights, cable type, cable owner, crossings, pole type, pole class, pole location, adjacent spans, etc. are noted for later analysis.  Newer systems, such as Katapult Pro, use photogrammetry to record this same information more quickly.  Once the pole survey is completed, the information can be handed over to a pole loading professional for analysis.  This step almost always involves pole loading software, such as PoleForeman, O-Calc, and SPIDA.  Once the model is correctly built in the software, the load on the pole is calculated (often with the new build included) and analyzed.  If the pole’s load exceeds what it can handle, either the build must be changed or the pole needs to be replaced.

Photo deliverable, showing the measurements of a pole located on a map displayed in Katapult Pro.

Obviously there’s a lot more involved when performing pole loading calculations.  This can include, but is not limited to: cable type (aluminum cable steel reinforced, copper, CATV, to name a few), cable diameter, span length (adjacent connections), cable angles, pole material or species (steel, concrete, southern pine, cedar, etc.), pole class, buried depth, guying (such as down guys or pole to pole guys), pole top extensions (used to extend the height of an existing pole), cable attachment type (dead end, tangent, etc.), and power or communications equipment attached to the pole (transformers, capacitor banks, auto switches, TV power boxes, etc.).  There are other factors too, such as current industry specifications, type of adjacent crossing (if any), NESC construction grade, weather (most pole loading calculations use the NESC loading district to determine wind and ice loading), etc.

Why it’s necessary:

It all comes down to one word: safety.  If a pole is over-loaded, it can fail, causing serious injury, as well as vehicle and/or property damage.  Pole loading analysis is generally used when attaching new cables or equipment to an existing pole or when building new lines.  If a pole fails loading analysis, the proposed build should be changed, or additional measures should be taken to counter the load, or a new pole needs to be placed.

How we can help:

Pole loading analysis is an important and valuable part of the OSP professional’s skill set. Our software allows efficient field collection and scalable heights extraction using defensible photogrammetry techniques.  Once a pole is collected using the Katapult Pro method, it is ready to be exported into any number of pole loading software packages, such as O-Calc, PoleForeman, SPIDA, etc.  Pole loading services are crucial to safely maintaining utility infrastructure and Katapult is proud to offer a better way to do it!

Stay tuned for Pole Loading Part II and reviews of O-Calc, SPIDA, and PoleForeman!

Isaac TuckerPole Loading